Thursday, January 27, 2011

Let the Great World Spin

It's months since I finished reading this book. At this point, I'm a bit vague on the detail - I could start reading it again then. If my brain today is any sign of the future, I will probably be able to read the same book every other week and not have a single memory of it. Life will be very simple then!

Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin is a collection of interconnected short stories (a bit like Raymond Carver's Short Cuts) where people's lives criss-cross while a tightrope walker glides back and forth between the Twin Towers in New York.

It took me a while to get into it, as the connections are tenuous to start with, but, as they get stronger and stronger as the story unfolds, the book grows on you, and is then hard to put down. It's solid, substantial, it feels like a book that matters. Yes, I will read it again. Not because I've forgotten the detail, but because it's a good read.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Road

We watched The Road after my parents had gone home - my Dad had starting reading the book and declared it too depressing. So, we felt that it was best to leave it just for Brendan and me to watch on a quiet evening.

I found it as good as the book - very faithful to it in its atmosphere and in the story - the only difference being that the mother has a few more scenes in the movie, but I guess that Charlize Theron wasn't going to bother just for a shot or two. My Dad is right in a way - it is depressing. What happens in a post-apocalypse world is not pleasant - It's cold, the sun is perpetually hidden by clouds, there is a constant search for food, and the man and his son never know what they're going to encounter. The father is suspicious of every person they come across, and for good reason. In a world where food has almost run out and nothing grows out of the earth, the only source of protein is .... well kind of obvious, isn't it? Doesn't make for a safe world. But the strong bond between father and son is what gives hope to the world, and what makes this movie so good.

And do click on the soundtrack link on the site. It's beautiful.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Jean Byrne - black dress with golden belt - 22 January

I'm pretty sure we've seen this dress on Jean before. It's lovely.

But do check out the massive square black ring and the strange bracelet - it looks like silver bones hanging from her wrist - not practical for writing or typing at a keyboard, I'd say!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Upstairs, Downstairs

I don't know the original series of "Upstairs, Downstairs". But this Christmas special was excellent - 3 episodes centering on the new owners of 165 Eaton Place and their servants in 1936, as the Nazis have extended their power over Germany and the British Union of Fascists is gaining ground in Britain. And it's not easy to find good staff. The lines between masters and servants are starting to blur.

It's got a good storyline, great characters, glamorous clothes, a monkey, and a few interesting twists.

If you're a fan, you will find lots of content on the updown.org.uk site. And there is plenty on the BBC website too.

And I couldn't resist this gorgeous photo I found while searching for images to illustrate this post! Cute or what! More pictures here, though I don't understand why people feel the need to post family pictures on such a public forum..

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I am Legend

Yes, we did watch a lot of movies over Christmas. That's what Christmas is for.

I am Legend is a remake of the story where a man finds himself alone in New York, where everybody else is either dead or turned into a zombie. Conveniently, zombies fear the light, and can only come out at night. But they also roam in dark buildings of course. This one is with Will Smith in the main role, and he does a good job. He's got a dog with him, so he's not completely alone. You could say that the dog is the one who keeps him sane. Will Smith's character is partly responsible for the catastrophe that decimated the world population, and he is trying to find an antidote, trying it out on rats first, then on captured zombies, with mixed results. But of course, one day, things don't go according to plan...

I spent half the movie looking away, as I can't handle scenes of violence, but, in its genre, I thought it was good all the same. There are a few bits where you go "aah, come on, don't be silly now, don't go into that dark building, you know it's full of zombies", and he goes in anyway. And his house, which appears completely zombie-proof at first, is not so strong after all. Given the storyline, there are not too many cute kids around, so that's a bonus (I've nothing against cute kids per se, but they seem to have become an essential part of Hollywood movies these days, whether the plot requires them or not, really annoying that). And, please, don't ask me what happens to the dog!

PS: don't forget to check out the "awakening comic", the "enhanced daylight meter" and the "survival game" on the website. Great content on movie websites these days.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Scott Pilgrim vs the World

Weird and wacko, but so enjoyable. Life as a video game. I had no idea what Scott Pilgrim vs the World was about, which made it all the better. At the end of the day, it's a "geeky guy falls for cool girl". How could it ever end well, with all her exes coming back to challenge Scott in battle?

And I spent the whole movie trying to remember where I had seen the actress who plays Scott's sister - Anna Kendrick. It was in Up in the Air, with George Clooney. A completely different character.

And check out the Avatar creator on the website. Paper dolls with attitude!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Ice Storm

Now, The Ice Storm is not a Christmas movie. And maybe not the best thing to watch when the weather forecast was for icy roads after Christmas, just as my parents were going home, and were anxious enough about travelling, having watched daily scenes of chaos at Dublin airport since the 20th of December!

But it's a good movie. Disturbing and sad. But one of those movies I know I'll watch again.

Siobhan Ryan - 17 January - Grey zippered dress

What is it about zippered dresses this January? Jean Byrne's new black dress, but also her white leather zippered number a few days ago. And Siobhan's grey asymmetrical dress!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mamma Mia

The other big Christmas movie on the telly this year was Mamma Mia. We were probably the only people in the country who hadn't seen it yet, though it has to be said we had seen the musical in Las Vegas well before the show came to Dublin. Now, I'm not into musicals, but Mamma Mia was just brilliant, if you like ABBA that is.

I had heard pretty mixed reviews about the movie. That Meryl Streep was suprisingly good in it. That Pierce Brosnan could not sing to save his life. That it felt like being on holiday in Greece.

For me, it can never be as good as the live show, but it was a nice movie for a Christmas evening. And yes, Meryl Streep can sing, and yes, Pierce Brosnan is hopeless at it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Enchanted

Enchanted was the big Christmas movie for me - I know, I know, I sound like a 10-year old, but I really enjoyed it. It was funny and sweet. The perfect movie for little girls and their mommies alike. McDreamy was as gorgeous as he is in Grey's Anatomy. And Susan Sarandon made the perfect evil stepmother, both as a cartoon character and in the flesh!


Oh, and don't miss out the games on the website - I tried the sing-along and just loved it - The best bit for me is when the pigeon eats the cockroach at the end of the Happy Working Song).

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rain Rain Rain

We had to drive to Claremorris today, and it rained all the way, with a cold mad wind. Not pleasant. And all that rain on the roads (of Co. Roscommon  in particular) was very good at hiding the pot-holes, of which there were many. We had good motorway driving as far as Athlone, but after that, our road network is patchy at best. As Bertie would say "A lot done, A lot more to do!". I'm too tired to rant. And anyways, we got plenty of ranting on the airwaves on Radio One on the way down - a great way to make the journey shorter. And on the way home, we were kept going to the sounds of  Leonard Cohen's Songs from the Road, and Joseph O'Connor's The Drivetime Diaries. We made it home before dark. Just as well, looking at the rainfall radar picture!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jean Byrne - 13 January - Black zip-up dress

Another sexy number on Jean today - a gathered zip-up black dress. Very flattering. Has Jean lost a bit of weight? Anyway, I really think this dress is lovely on her, and the striking jewellery too (watch out for that big ring!).

PS: she's top of the hits on this blog again. On the 7th of January, I got 2701 hits, 95% of which were people who had googled Jean Byrne, Jean Byrne weather or Jean Byrne see-through dress, and the rest had got through via a link from the boys on Boards.ie!


Sunday, January 09, 2011

Siobhan Ryan - 7 January - black skirt and polka-dot top

A lovely fresh look on Siobhan last Friday:

I am really dedicated to Jean & Siobhan, aren't I? I've got it down to a fine art now - pause the RTE Player, Print Screen, pick up in Picasa, crop, export, Insert in Blogger, add a  few words - all done in a few minutes. But I've got time for nothing else these days. Not that too many of you are interested in my latest watercolours, but I am! I'll have to find more time in the day!

Siobhan Ryan - 8 January - pink dress

Nice colour, but this dress is a bit shapeless on Siobhan - she's got a great figure, so it's a shame to hide it.
Now, I know it's not her style, but I bet the boys on Boards.ie would go mad if she were to wear a see-through dress like Jean's!

Siobhan Ryan - 9 January - purple dress with big black belt

I think I've seen this dress on Siobhan before, but she's updated it nicely with this big black belt.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Doodles

Trying out more trees with paint left over from "The Road from Kaikoura". This one I modified with the "Focal B&W" effect in Picasa. :

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Jean Byrne - 5 January - body-hugging black dress with beige slash-through effect

Interesting new dress - the skin-coloured slashes - are they actual see-through panels or just fabric in a contrasting colour? As far as I could see, the back panel is completely black.

It looks good on Jean. I like her more simple looks - I just don't go for overly fussy outfits. I'm a fairly plain dresser myself.

Jean Byrne - 4 January - rock chick look

New clothes for Jean - the overall effect may be a tad too fussy for my liking. Maybe the top with a plainer skirt and the skirt with a plainer top would work better. Actually, I think she wore the matching top today. I'll check on the player tomorrow and will let you know

Tokyo Sonata

A very good movie we watched during our Christmas holidays: Tokyo Sonata - how an ordinary life goes off the rails when a salary man (and family man) loses his job. I don't know if it's a true representation of life in Japan or not - a cramped house beside the railway line, a housewife who cooks and always seems to have food ready to serve to her husband and two sons, a man whose life is defined by his work, and who feels lost without it, an older son who wants to fight for his ideals, a younger son who is talented and is not afraid to stand up to his father (and to operate behind his back when necessary). All of these people, lost in their lives of routine, respect and authority, and who need a major catastrophe to re-assess their priorities and open up to their true feelings.

Very subtle, with humour and pathos, despair and hope. I loved it.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The Road from Kaikoura

The finished article - I had to create a texture in the foreground, as the expanse of green didn't work on its own. The paper I used is a Cornwall 450g/m2 rough watercolour block from Hahnemuhle - 20x50cm:

Here is the original picture that inspired it. It was one I took from the campervan on the road from Kaikoura to Oamaru in 2008.

And here is the same picture, cropped. 

Monday, January 03, 2011

The Road from Kaikoura

This is my current work in progress. What you are looking at is a Picasa collage of a Photoshoped watercolour. I love Technology!

As you can see, my trees worked out really well - despite the fact that the masking fluid tore the paper to bits when I removed it. It's a rough paper with a very prominent texture, so I should have guessed. But I used fairly thick paint for the foliage, and the torn bits of paper actually add character - just as well I wasn't planning on painting a very delicate wash.

Once I had the trees done, the front hill just wasn't looking right. It looked too pale against the golden middle ground. But I knew I would only get one shot at getting it right. I remembered Shirley Trevena saying that in a situation where she wasn't sure what colour to use, she would place magazine clippings on top of the area to help her decide what exact shade to pick. Well, I don't have a collection of magazine clippings in various shades of green, but I have Photoshop, so I took a picture of my work in progress, brought the image into Photoshop and painted various greens in until I was happy with the result. While I was at it, I tried out a few different skies.

After that, the Picasa collage was only a few clicks away.

Tron Legacy

PS: Tron 3-D light cycle template was too fiddly for me. Gave up after cutting the second of six pieces!

Fir Trees

I also need some fir trees in this painting - without water reflections, but it was fun trying this one out.

Trees

After an hour in the gym (half an hour of which was relaxation, I have to add, followed by a hot chocolate), and a invigorating walk on Bray seafront (followed by fish and chips - I think we're striking an excellent balance between healthy and unhealthy here), I've spent the afternoon absorbed in watercolours. The jury is still out whether my current project will work out or not, but I've enjoyed it.

The center part of the painting I'm working on has some lovely trees. So I had to figure out how to paint them before ruining my beautiful paper!

Hopefully the dabbing technique I used here will work as well on my big painting as it did on this attempt.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Tron Legacy

The Tron movie is not quite in the "life is too short" category, but nearly. 300 is still the unbeaten champion there.

Tron Legacy just takes itself too seriously. Judging by the audience in the cinema yesterday, it's aimed at 12-year-old boys and a few older geeks. Well, halfway through the movie, the kids were busy flicking through their iPod Touch (that's after I told them to "settle down, boys" when they were throwing empty cans around the place), and the adults (represented by yours truly) were getting very very sleepy.

It's a good storyline - the idea is great. But they are all far too serious about it. And the only love interest is an Ion, or something like that - a naturally-occurring program, and she's the last one on earth (or rather, in the computer). And they don't even kiss, not that I remember anyway.

A bit of humour is all that would have been needed to make Tron Legacy a decent movie, but as it is, I just can't buy Jeff Bridges as Obi One Kenobi!

PS: I have no idea where to turn the sound off on the Tron website. I've clicked the speaker icon in the bottom left corner on and off and on and off, but the music is still blaring! So, apologies if you entered the site at work, and your colleagues across the partition got a blast of Daft Punk.

PPS: there is plenty to click on in the website (some of it painfully slow, though), by the way. There are games to play, and under Activities, I've even found a template to make a 3-d light cycle. Cool or what. I'll let you know how I get on!

Dawn/Dusk at Caraguilhes

Couldn't resist a collage, now, could I? I printed it on 10x15 glossy paper, and it's gorgeous, if I may say so myself!

The Picasa collage feature can really take the most ordinary photos and make them into something you want to put up on the wall.

The more I look at that orange sky, the more I like it, actually. I might try another version altogether, with more realistic colours maybe, but with the same values again.

Dawn/Dusk at Caraguilhes


I'm still exploring the theme of sunrise over the Corbières. I've improved on the perspective for the vines. And I like the colour I managed to achieve for the ground - lovely rich soils, but I'm not sure about the sky - a tad too orange, I think. So, what do I do? Will I risk ruining it all, by adding a bluish wash? I might end up with a green sky! I'll wait until tomorrow, when I can take a better picture of it in daylight, so if I ruin it, I'll still have the photo of the original. It looks well in black and white - maybe that's what I should do - that will save me from agonising over colours.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Mincemeat and Apple Pie

This is now my 3rd time baking this lovely apple pie from Áine McAteer's recipe (which she kindly posted as a comment under one of my recent posts), and I'm getting good at it. I even lifted the pastry without Brendan's help this time. Aren't I brilliant? For someone who never saw her mother bake, not bad at all.

I'm using a different dish this time so I hope it'll work out. I had to roll the pastry thinner, so maybe it will cook faster? Though the overall amount of pastry is the same... Well, we'll know in 10 minutes.

This picture was taken last week, with the baking done in the smaller but higher dish. My parents were impressed and had seconds (though they were not interested at all in how it was made).

Thank you Áine for a delicious recipe.

Siobhan Ryan - 31 December - red and black dress

Much more of a statement outfit, this dress. It wouldn't suit everyone, but it's perfect on Siobhan. Classy and Modern at the same time.

PS: Hello to all the boys on Boards.ie. Despite what you may think, I'm not as obsessed with Siobhan as you all are. I just like the clothes she wears!

Siobhan Ryan - 30 December - Tartan top

I missed this one! A fairly casual outfit. It suits her.

Dandelions (#6)

Now I'm feeling better - I knew painting dandelions would do the trick. I painted this one on a standard block watercolour page (that's roughly A4). But I think it's one of those things that actually looks better on a smaller page (like a birthday card - I must do more of those). So, now I can move on and paint a landscape or something. But I'll probably use similar colours. I just love the combination of bright orange and violet-blue, and I want to explore all its possibilities.